Kick Off 97
I Still Remember The First Time I Played the original Kick Off. I went round to my mate's house and he got his 'computer' out, wound it up, jiggled a few tapes about, sharpened a stick and poked it into a slot, and some blobs started running about on screen. At first I thought I was having a migraine. Then things came into focus, and got a little clearer, but they looked like those old 'joke' cartoons in comics that were sent in by readers who were hard-of-thinking. You know, a sort of fried-egg shape with a line coming out either side and "Mexican riding a bicycle" written underneath.
Well, these blobs had the central egg shape (albeit oddly-hued) with a different coloured blob on each side to denote shoulders; apparently they were footballers viewed from directly above. I gathered this when, after about five minutes of grunting from my mate and some bleeps and squeaks from the TV with the odd patch of white noise, he said from between clenched teeth: "Five-nil," and I realised I was losing a football match. My mate always spoke from between clenched teeth when playing computer games. He was very competitive. In fact, he was so competitive he wouldn't tell me the controls. He wouldn't even give me the controls. I never really grew to like the game for some reason.
Fast forward in time (did you see the edges of the page go all wibbly there for a second?) and Sensible Soccer appears. The view is not-quite-top-down, it shows more of the pitch, the ball moves about within the view rather than staying almost exactly mid-screen all the time, and the straight top-down viewed football game is no more. Kick Off has struggled ever since. They've tried side-on views, they've tried all sorts, really, but no one wants to know. Everyone else has motion capturing nowadays - whether you actually want it or not. Strangely enough, the original version still has its devotees, but these people are viewed in much the same way as those who recondition penny-farthings, and ride about on them shouting "Mountain bikes? Twenty-one gears and a comfortable seat? Who needs ? Give me a bike with no gears, that's really difficult to get onto, and when you do your calves burst, and the saddle gives you haemorrhoids that are the size of beach balls, any day. Hah!" (People like that always litter their sentences with italics.) All the mountain bikers then just laugh up their sleeves and bounce about on their lovely 3000-worth of suspension-tastie frames.
Fast forward again and it's today - half past nine in the morning, to be exact And Kick Off 97 is now here. It's motion captured and uses the obligatory 'real' footballers that do so much to make us buy a game. In this case, though, they're Arsenal footballers. (Insert boring game joke of your choice here.) And really, it's all right.
Yes, it's motion captured but. amazingly, it plays very quickly - certainly quicker than either of its main competitors FIFA and Acfuo on my P90. For a motion captured effort, there's no sense that the game has been fitted around the motion capturing, rather than vice versa - well, not often. To get it running quickly, I used a maximum installation, with 124Mb of hard disk space. Even the minimal installation uses 45 meg. Call me old fashioned, but 124 meg for a footie game?
Other good points include the fact that you don't need to memorise loads and loads of button presses (as you do with FIFA) and the goalkeepers aren't idiots (like Actua/Euro 96). There are also shitloads of options in the gameplay - from the different types of tournaments possible and the number of customisable ones you can devise. You can also create and edit your own Dream Team and include them in a customised competition of your choice. You can even pick the referees and the pitch pattern, which should please Bob Flowerdew fans. There's a nice practice facility that lets you work on everything from taking a free kick and penalties, to dribbling and shooting. One really handy touch is that you see the player stats as you go to make a substitution, management game style. There are more teams available - both nationally and at club level - than any other game, apart maybe from Sensible World Of Soccer.
Less good things
There are however, a few irritating things and one or two faults. On the irritating front there are the aforementioned teams - it's all very well having the right players, but the ratings and default choices are crap. Few people would have Ronaldo and Stoichkov not in the starting Barcelona side, for example. Then there are the team strips: not only are some of them just wrong, but occasionally two different sides come on with the same coloured shirts (like Chelsea and Leicester). The penalty taking feature doesn't seem to work properly, and when you're playing out of the screen, the view doesn't zoom back enough to show you the goal to aim your penalty. The commentary isn't exactly free flowing, and it gives the wrong information sometimes: in a two-player game, my Utrecht side got a penalty against England and the commentary said England had the penalty. Oh, and the offside rule is a bit crap, and the back-pass rule is non-existent.
Overall, it's pretty good for fast-paced action. It's very playable, especially if you get a two-player Gravis Grip setup. when it's the fastest action on the PC. Admittedly, in one-player mode the computer teams are a bit tricky - but that's better than being too easy. And. by the way, nostalgia freaks can play it top-down. Although why they'd want to...
Download Kick Off 97
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP